The figure legend is one of the most important parts of your research paper. With the length of 100-300 words, the figure legend provides the reader with a short overview of the materials, methods and the results of your major findings and is aimed at helping the reader understand the key aspects of your paper in a relatively short time. If it is the first time you deal with writing the figure legend, we recommend you to treat it as a miniature version of an abstract that you for sure have already written for your research papers before. Below are described the specific components that will help you make your figure legend an efficient part of your paper.
The title of the figure legend is important in a way it whether summarizes the results of your research, highlights methods of the analysis or emphasizes the conclusions based on your major findings. To come up with an efficient title for your figure legend, switch on both your analytical and creative skills. It is advised to use a descriptive sentence or a phrase as the most relevant options for building up the title. Your title should preferably be written in the active voice, which is a clearer and more succinct way of stating your thoughts.
Materials and methods is an integral component of the efficient figure legend as its aim is to describe the key techniques used to receive the findings of your research. Make sure you include only the information/details that briefly clarify and interpret the figures so the reader understands everything without referring to the methods section of your research. Types and models, conditions and treatments, laboratories and facilities might be mentioned as the materials and methods of your figure legend.
The Results component of the figure legend has to be as succinct as the rest of the components and summarize the conclusions of your findings in one sentence only. In case you’ve emphasized the conclusions based on your major findings in the title of the figure legend, this sentence can be omitted. Instead, information about replicates, the sample size, and p-values is obligatory-to-mention information.
Figure definitions and descriptions component, to the list of which belong colors, scale bars, abbreviations, error bars, lines, symbols etc, have to be defined in the figure (not in the legend). Defining components mentioned in the previous sentence in the figure will allow you to use them when describing and explaining your findings in the legend, so make sure all the symbols, colors and etc. are clear.
Verb tenses is another important aspect that should be taken into consideration while writing the figure legend. Use the past simple tense to describe the methods and the results that have already been completed; the present tense to explain or highlight some features or characteristics of your findings and figures.
Keep your figure legend brief, informative, comprehensive and logical, so the readers can make their own conclusions from the figures you suggest and then be interested in checking their assumptions in the sections of the research, where you describe everything in a more detailed way.
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